David Sands has made sustainable living his life’s work as an architect. When he was attending Washington and Lee University in Virginia as an undergraduate, a professor of Chinese art introduced him to the idea of bamboo as a metaphor for the perfected human being: strong yet flexible with an inner emptiness representing the essential Buddha nature of existence. That metaphor, together with a recognition of the significant environmental qualities of bamboo, has set the tone and theme of David’s life. He has initiated a campaign to make bamboo the most prevalently used building material on the planet. He cofounded in 1995 and is Chief Architect of Bamboo Living in Maui, Hawaii, with the mission to protect and restore the planet by pioneering the use of bamboo as a building material. David is now an international leader on structural bamboo, and he designs both individual homes and prototypes for large-scale construction.
A devotee to yoga practice since 1971, David lived for eight years in an ashram. He served for nearly a decade on the board of Kripalu Center in Massachusetts, the largest yoga retreat facility in America, including several years as chairperson. After relocating to Hawaii in 1988, David co-founded Bamboo Living with Jeffree Trudeau in 1995.
“I left Kripalu in 1987 and moved to Hawaii a year later. Pretty quickly after that, I built my own house with my brother and some friends,” David has said. “I tried to be as green and sustainable as I could …. But when they delivered the construction lumber, it was painful, because I saw how many trees were tied in with that amount of wood. Even for a managed forest, that’s a lot of trees being cut, and the logging process is a mess. Shortly after completing the house, I left Maui for six months to figure out how I could align my life better with my values. … during that time, a friend from Maui called who had just come back from the World Bamboo Congress in Bali.”
Bamboo Living's homes are the first and only code certified permit-able bamboo structures in the world. Since 1995, David and his team have designed and permitted more than 350 bamboo homes in the Hawaiian Islands and other locations in the world. Each of the artisan pre-fabricated homes that goes into production saves about 10 acres of forest from being cut down, and benefit from bamboo's qualities as earthquake-resilient and hurricane-resistant.
“Bamboo is probably the most sustainable building material on the planet,” David has explained. “Using it actually restores the planet. It reduces deforestation, creates annual jobs rather than the typically cyclical jobs of forestry—it’s a very different paradigm for construction material. Bamboo plants live 50 to 100 years, depending on the species, and can be harvested every year. When you cut them, it doesn’t kill the plants, so it’s not like harvesting timber. It also looks beautiful, like a work of art. … Bamboo is the fastest-growing plant, so it’s the fastest way to get carbon out of the atmosphere. … It made me realize that switching our construction to bamboo could have a huge impact on the planet. That’s not going to be done with just the niche houses I’ve designed, so I’ve started working toward that through other avenues.”
David served on the INBAR (International Network for Bamboo and Rattan) committee to develop the International Standards Organization (ISO) standard for structural bamboo. He is an international speaker on the subject of structural bamboo, presenting at conferences in Beijing, Hanoi, Mexico, Costa Rica and elsewhere. David has also been a presenter for the American Institute of Architects National Convention, the American Bamboo Society national conference, and a keynote speaker for the World Bamboo Congress in Bangkok.
David has also recently started a company called Bamboo Ecologic to produce a structural bamboo panel. “It’s an amazing building material with phenomenal properties in terms of durability and resistance to mold and insects. You can build entire buildings with just these panels. … We’re able to match regular construction costs, and this new technology will eventually be the most affordable way to build anything.”
Born and raised in Florida, David received his Masters in Architecture in 1982 from the University of Florida.
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